Better you don’t know how much they’re manipulating you.
Wannabe statesmen want to retain you as their Madiba – ancestor of the nation, guardian of the world. Your closed casket is their open season; now they can arrange you any way they like.
Madiba, embodiment of elderly wisdom, also serves to outlaw the idea of Mandingo, i.e. ‘look at those huge fists, see the terrifying cock on that black bull’. The magic of Madiba dispels the fantastic dangers of the flesh (skin, boner and bare-knuckle fighter) conjured up in swart gevaar (Afrikaans for ‘black threat’) mentality.
Meanwhile Tutu does a twirl because your political party, the African National Congress, has wrapped you in its flag and drawn up the guest list for your funeral – minus a certain archbishop. He has a point: the sight of your grandson Mandla harvesting Madiba’s reputation – your most vital organ – is hard to watch.
But this is too one-sided. Any story which refers only to other people’s machinations, is bound to be simplistic. Postcards from your boxing days – bare-chested with stiletto-thin moustache – suggest that the idea of Mandingo was not entirely alien to you. Your ‘dignity’ was never docile nor disinterested; even in your prison cell, you always worked the room. Machiavelli might have written The Prince with you in mind; rather, he need not have done so, since you were already mindful of it.
Conversely, I bet the dodgy geezer currently trading on Tata’s persona, would still stake it all in order to play the grandson’s traditional role: having accompanied his grandfather during the days leading up to the funeral, speaking alone to the dear departing as he goes gently into the night.
Machiavelli, Mandingo, Madiba: Nelson Mandela has been something of each of these; he was only as complex as the rest of us.